Mix’n’Match

I give you an article by Elizabeth Warren, she of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency-architecting and sassy interviews on “The Daily Show.”  I loved her before, but I love her even more now.  The article is a few years old (2005 publication date) but still quite relevant, particularly when considering much of the rhetoric surrounding the mortgage modification debate.  What I was most struck by, however, was the following sentence: “Failing schools impose an enormous cost on the children who are forced to attend them, but they also impose an enormous cost on those who don’t.”  What Warren describes, even if she does not label it as such, is a public school system essentially privatized along demographic lines, paid for not in tuition dollars but in ballooning monthly mortgages — not shocking itself, perhaps, until she reveals that public school affiliation is the single biggest driver of rising home prices.  Reading this five years later, we also know that rising home prices were the biggest driver of the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

Think about that for a minute.

Marinate with it a little longer.

Would a more equitable public school system have averted the Great Recession?

I don’t have an answer to that question (my gut response is to say probably not entirely, but on the other hand, schools are the locus of so much complex social legislation that it’s very hard to imagine how different society would be if we had more equitably administered school systems), but Warren’s article certainly raises it as a reasonable possibility, and as something that should at least be investigated.  Thus far, however, I have not read or heard of anything exploring such a topic.  But hey, maybe if Tim Geithner has his way and Elizabeth Warren doesn’t head the new CFPA, we could at least get some concrete analysis on that question.

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